How to Remove Bad Smells from Former Tenants

How to rejuvenate your property and get it move-in ready!

A person in a yellow hazmat suit against a peach colored wall. They are holding a respirator mask up to their face, and holding a can of aerosol spray toward the camera.

Our sense of smell is linked closely with memories and emotions, so unsurprisingly, the way your rental smells is important. Former tenants can leave behind stubborn odors that may be strong and offensive enough to deter prospective tenants; in some cases, these bad smells may even keep your unit vacant. So, how can you rejuvenate your property and get it smelling great and move-in ready after a particularly odoriferous tenant moves out? Here are some simple DIY tips for a few of the most common smells you are likely to encounter as a landlord or property manager:

Rotten Food and Garbage

Hopefully, your tenant will throw out any unwanted food and garbage before they leave, but if they don't, you could be in for a smelly surprise next time you enter the unit. You might also find fruit flies or other types of pests that have been attracted by the garbage. First, start by opening all of the windows to get the fresh air flowing. Throw the food or trash away in an outside bin, and then scrub the area it was resting on with soap and hot water. When the area is dry, spray with some Lysol or other disinfectant. This usually takes care of any odors from garbage or rotten food. Insects will often go away on their own once the food or garbage has been removed. For stubborn pests like roaches or mice, put out traps or hire an exterminator.

Pet Odors

Pet odors have a way of saturating the walls, carpets, and even fabric window coverings when left unchecked. The best approach is to start by opening the windows and thoroughly deep cleaning the unit. Sprinkle baking soda generously on all carpeted areas and allow to sit and soak up the odors. Vacuum and steam clean the carpeting in each room, being sure to use an enzymatic cleaner for pet stains. Scrub all hard surfaces with a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar. You can also use a blacklight to pinpoint any source of the odors. Wait until it's dark, turn out the lights, and walk around the room with a handheld blacklight. Any urine stains will be illuminated and easy to spot. For particularly tough stains or odors, an enzymatic cleaner is your best option. Make sure to follow the directions on the label and allow the cleaner to sit for the recommended amount of time; otherwise, it may not be effective.

If this doesn't get rid of the odors completely, you can hire a company that specializes in pet odor removal. This will save you the cost of replacing carpeting or repainting.

Strong Foods and Spices

Some foods and spices can leave behind a very strong smell that lingers long after the tenant has left. Change all the air filters in the unit, and scrub all surfaces using a vinegar and water solution (one cup of water and two tablespoons of vinegar). Pay special attention to the kitchen area, and make sure to get around the stove. If the smell is especially strong in the kitchen, spray down the surfaces with the vinegar and water mixture, so they're damp. Keep the windows open to allow the home to air-dry.

Cigarette Smoke

Similarly to pet odors, cigarette smoke has a way of permeating everything. The process of removing smoke odor depends on its severity. If your tenant was smoking in the unit for many years, you might have to contend with stubborn resin and tar contamination. In this case, you may want to consider replacing the carpeting and any other fabrics, like curtains or lampshades. Open all the windows and use fans to circulate the air. Scrub down hard surfaces using a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and hot water.

Make sure to scrub down everything in the unit - walls, light fixtures, doors, ceilings, windows, and fan blades. Steam clean any carpets you're planning to keep. You should also replace the air filters or even have the duct-work cleaned out. If the smell remains after you've cleaned everything, you can place activated charcoal or bowls of white vinegar around the rooms to absorb the odors. Stay away from scented odor removal products, as these generally will just mask the smell. Baking soda can also be used on the carpeting to help absorb lingering odors.

Marijuana Oil and Methamphetamines

The legalization of marijuana in many states has made it increasingly likely that you may encounter smells caused by indoor growing or oil production. With these odors, the cleaning process will depend on the severity. Like cigarettes, marijuana contains sticky resins that can cling to surfaces. Start by cleaning the walls, ceiling, and hard surfaces with soap and hot water. This should cut through the residue and remove the smell, but if you're dealing with a more severe case, you may want to follow up with a 50/50 mixture of hot water and vinegar. Then, steam clean the carpets.

If your tenant was using methamphetamines at the property, you might notice odd chemical odors similar to nail polish remover or cat urine. Since meth is water-soluble, you can use the same method as with marijuana. Make sure to scrub all surfaces thoroughly, and steam clean the carpets. If your tenant was manufacturing meth at the property, you'll need to take a different approach. The process of cooking meth can leave behind toxic, combustible residues that can contaminate every surface in the home. In this case, your best course of action is to have the property tested for contamination and hire a professional cleaning crew. You'll also want to check with your local laws, as many areas have specific regulations regarding how to handle getting your property ready to rent again.

Getting rid of bad odors may seem like a daunting task, but with some deep cleaning and patience, they can be removed. And, if you're short on time, you can always turn to the professionals to remove those stubborn smells. The cost of cleaning will be worth finding new tenants who want to occupy your rental!

Created on: 04/08/24

Author: CreditLink Secure Blog Team

Tags: carpet , carpets , deep clean , cleaning , repairs , smoke , cigarette smoke , garbage , pets , odor , former tenants , move-in,

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